Country Inn Spa Day

A Country Inn Day is a day to escape from regular routines. It’s a day to focus on favorite things, to do those pleasant activities you never have time to do. It’s a day to rest if you’re tired, a day for adventure if you’re bored. It’s a day to use all those pretty things you save for special days. Well, a Country Inn Day is always a special day and it could be a good day for some pampering.

On this Country Inn Spa Day I chose to pamper myself. I hope you pamper yourself sometimes too. A little tender care never hurts. I decided to sleep in, even if it was just an extra hour of sleep, and I decided to have breakfast in bed. Doesn’t that sound decadent? Years ago I purchased a very pretty breakfast tray but I haven’t been using it nearly enough. It never seemed to be the right time. Well, I now decided any Country Inn Day is the right time for breakfast in bed, especially a Country Inn Spa Day.

Yummy French Toast

I like all things French so naturally this Breakfast in bed needed French toast. I dusted off my Laura Ashley English china (I like a lot of English things too) and got all comfy with coffee, magazines, and my breakfast. I had heard the American author Edith Wharton spent every morning in bed till noon. She’d handwrite pages of her books, drop the pages on the floor for her servants to collect and type, but I wonder if she had a nice breakfast tray and french toast to enjoy while she was writing. I hope so.

After a leisurely breakfast I decided a nice fragrant bath with Chanel No. 5 bath bubbles would be just the thing. Of course I enjoy baths all the time, they’re not an unusual treat, but they’re a Country Inn Day treat just the same, and perfect for a Spa day.

CarolAnn’s bathroom

I feel very fortunate to live in a historic house, my Jeremiah Brown house built in 1853. I’m sure Jeremiah didn’t have a bathroom quite like mine, but with a lot of effort I created a bathroom fit for any Country Inn. I put Laura Ashley wallpaper on the wall, (I told you I like English things as well as French things), found an antique chandelier, bought a snazzy big tub and now any bathtime is a special time, but on a Country Inn Day when there’s no rush, only favorite things to look forward to, well, bathtime is even better.

the bath is filling up

I begin to fill the tub with Chanel No. 5 bath potion and the scent comes forth. I wish you could get a whiff. Hmmmmmmm. Some people like to have a yellow rubber duckie. Not me. I need a pink one.

Some people need therapists to cope with life. Not me. I just usually need a nice bubble bath.

It’s not just the bubbles though. I think I was born too late because I just love antiques all around me. I love crystal chandeliers and antique linen on the windows.

And I do like whimsy too. Only a three year old could fit into this ballet dress, but it sure looks cute in my bathroom. It puts a smile on my face.

It was such fun creating this bathroom. We used my mother-in-laws chest of drawers to create a sink cabinet. We found a little shell sink. I bought lots of laura Ashley china to hold soap, powder and jewelry and the pictures on the wall had hung in my parents bedroom for years. These old things make me happy. Even the little plaster house was made by one of my little boys in art class.

To take time for yourself, to sit at a dressing table and reflect as you put yourself together. This is a girlie thing. It needn’t take much time, but it’s a time to enjoy being a girl.

And I truly enjoy being a girl.

Years go by and our youth fades. Just as antique furniture needs a little extra loving care so too do human beings. My Country Inn Spa Days give me extra time to rejuvenate. Lots more is involved in a Spa Day. There is exercise, manicures, facials, special treaments and then lots of other favorite things. Doing things you love are one of the best rejuvenators. There’s no Fountain of Youth despite what Ponce de Leon was saying way back when, though I did buy a bottle of potion when I was in Florida some years back. But we do need to take care of ourselves and that sometimes means a little pampering.

Why do I tell you all this?

It’s because…

Tea and Hospitality

Tea – a hot drink that is made by steeping the dried leaves of tea plants in boiling water.

Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests.

Put these two together and what do you get?

The Afternoon Tea Party

Even though I love coffee and drink coffee all through the day when the afternoon rolls around it’s time for tea. There’s something about the tea ceremony that is just too civilized and gracious not to be enjoyed daily, but to host an afternoon tea is especially wonderful because it’s a way to visit with old friends, encourage friendship with the new people you meet while also enjoying your own afternoon tea.

To host an afternoon tea all you really need is the tea and a friend, but of course you can add as much to the occasion as you like. Because I enjoy working with food I usually serve three things at my teas – a sandwich of some kind, scones, and a dessert,

The sandwiches at my last tea were cucumber

Cucumber, butter, salt and pepper on white bread

The scones served were one of my favorites – Cream scones with orange butter.

The Cream Scone recipe – 2 c, flour, 1/3c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2c. currants, 1 c. heavy cream. Process: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together the first 5 ingredients. Gradually stir in the cream. Gather the dough together and knead lightly on floured board. Pat to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 inch cutter dipped in flour. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. You can glaze the scones with a creamy mixture of 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 tsp. orange zest and about 1 Tpsp. of frsh o.j.

Orange butter is easy to make. Beat together 1 stick of unsalted butter (softened), 2 Tbsp. frozen o.j. concentrate, with the zest of 1/2 orange, 1/4 plus 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Smooth into ramekin and smooth top.

Yum

For dessert at this tea I whipped up a plate of creme puffs. I like to fill them with coconut creme pudding mixed with whipped cream.

Of course you could invite friends over and simply serve a cup of tea with a smile and friendly conversation. Sometimes I do just that. Food is not always necessary. It’s opening your home to friendship that’s most important and it’s good to know that serving tea is healthful as well as good-tasting. It’s a gormet bargain. Most teas cost only four or five cents a cup, and even the very rarest varieties are only about fifty cents – so go ahead and buy the best.

You can serve your tea at the sofa, on a little tray between two easy chairs, or at a table – anything goes. Whatever works in your home is the perfect thing for you. I like to serve in different rooms each month, use different china, different linen, different everything for each of my teas. I try to fully utilize my spaces and enjoy using all the things I’ve collected over time.

My Autumn tea was larger than usual. I invited five guests, all neighbors. I usually keep my tea parties small – one, two or three guests, but occasionally I’ll host up to five guests and I’m the sixth. Larger teas need larger tables.

A centerpiece is often flowers or something from nature. For this tea I chose Autumn leaves.

I used a favorite set of china from France. How I love French things. The napkins were old and delicate to co-ordinate with the cutwork placemats. It’s all art, putting a table together.

Each place setting welcomes my guests.

My guests arrived one by one and until they all were here we sat in the library and chatted.

Once the last guest arrived the tea party began. We went to the table and the rest was history. Afternoon tea is a pleasantly nostalgic and remarkably enduring custom. An hour whiled away with tea treats, music, conversation, and late afternoon light is a wonderful way to slow the pace of our busy world and recapture the sense of well-being that we need to carry on with the rest of our days.

Afternoon tea is also a great way to enrich our old friendships and cultivate new ones.

Take a break each day for your own afternoon tea and partake in the age old Art of Hospitality inviting others into your home now and then too.

It’s wonderful fun. Take it from me . . .

A Country Inn Day in Medina

The Gazebo in Medina’s Square

As you may know each and every week I enjoy one Country Inn Day, a day I escape from regular routines. Country Inn Days are play days. They are days to enjoy my favorite activities, focus on favorite things and spend time in places I love. The idea behind my Country Inn Days is to stop and smell the roses in life. We must give ourselves permission to do this regularly. Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation.

There is a lot of play involved in a Country Inn Day. It’s not only children that need to play. Play is very good for all of us no matter how old we might be. For me play is tied closely to imagination. Because I love old country inns it’s not a coincidence I live in a historic house. My house, the Jeremiah Brown House, was built in 1853 by the half brother of John Brown, the famous abolitionist.

The 1853 Jeremiah Brown House

Living in such an old house makes it easy for me to play, imagining the house is an old Inn. I can “play” the part of innkeeper every time I welcome guests to dinner parties and afternoon teas or as I work to spruce up the place.. I can “play” the part of inn cook every time I work in the kitchen creating culinary masterpieces on Inn Days. I can even enjoy “playing” the part of inn maid as I clean and polish this old house. But of course every Inn Day sees me “playing” the part of Inn guest too as I enjoy simple pleasures and not so simple pleasures like breakfast in bed or champagne before dinner served in my best crystal glasses.

I go off to real Country Inns every chance I get, but in between these junkets The Jeremiah Brown House is my Inn of choice, a grand place for having great fun and refreshment.

Of course I’m not forced to hybernate at the Inn for all of every Country Inn Day. There are Culture Days that take me out to museums. There are Adventure Days where I go off exploring new places. There are Nature Days that take me to gardens and parks. There are Spa Days at the Inn or away, and there are Favorite Town Days where I spend time in these favorite places taking advantage of what these towns have to offer. There are many kinds of Country Inn Days and I’m dreaming up more all the time.

My last Inn Day was a Favorite Town Day and on such days as this I bop around a town visiting coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops, strolling around, you know, just enjoying the surroundings, taking in the different sites and sounds. I might even meet new people and make new friends. I don’t always have to travel hundreds of miles to escape my regular setting. Sometimes going off fifty, thirty or even just twenty miles east, west or south ( not north because that’s Lake Erie) is all I need to do. Any town different from my own Hudson will offer new sites, perspectives and fun.

So off I went on my last Country Inn Day to the town of Medina. Medina is a few towns southwest of my Hudson. It’s an old town approximately 23 miles south of Cleveland and 23 miles west of Akron, Ohio. Its population was noted as 26,678 at the last census in 2010. It was founded in 1818 making it about 200 years old. Because I love history, old Country Inns, and all sorts of old things I especially love to visit the old towns in my area.

Coffee Shop on the edge of the Green

On this outing to Medina I first enjoyed finding a new coffee shop and I liked it very much. I got a table by the window and started my day with coffee and the writing of two letters to favorite pen friends. A day does not go by for me without a little (or a lot) of letter writing.

After coffee I strolled around the lovely Village Green. Every town should have a Village Green with park benches and a gazebo or some other charming fixture. I loved the old buildings around the square.

I spotted a Polish pottery shop and being 100% Polish I had to stop in.

The Polish Pottery Shop of Medina

It was a most colorful and charming place. I felt like I was in an art museum seeing so many handpainted items. Being a cook, and one who enjoys entertaining, I felt like a kid in a candy store seeing so many beautiful dishes. I wanted to take everything home with me …

but I settled for two small items -a little birdie that will serve as a vent for my next apple pie and a sweet little dish to hold my next tea bag.

My new Polish goodies

From the Polish pottery shop I headed off to Roots Candle Company. Medina is the home of its 20,000 square foot Flagship store. It feels like a stylish boutique brimming with unique and designer-inspired home decor. The Innkeeper in me loved this place and boy were there a lot of candles to see.

Meet Amos, the founder of Roots

The Root family, over 5 generations and 140 years have worked to perfect the candle and of course I had to buy some candles and a pretty wintery globe to grace a coffee table back at my Inn, the Jeremiah Brown House.

My Wintery pinecone globe with scented pine candle within

Time was flying as I strolled around looking at all sorts of goodies. I had meant to stop for tea, but the tea house, Miss Molly’s, had closed at 3:00. Phooie!

Miss Molly’s Tea House

But the antique shop next to Roots was open so I went in, looked around …

Antique shops are always fun, and there I found 5 sweet crystal tea light containers for my dining table…

and this large embossed globe with candle. What fun to buy a few treasures to use on Inn Days and on ordinary days too. Every time I use these things I’ll be reminded of my fun Medina Country Inn Day.

It was getting late and of course there were things to enjoy back at the Inn. I had to get back to Hudson soon, but before I left Medina I had to peek in at a certain Victorian House. A friend had told me about this old place.

I heard this old house was turned into a restaurant. Dinner was waiting for me at my Inn so I just took a quick look around noting the information for some future Country Inn Day.

One of the dining rooms
and another dining room

It’s always fun to discover another old place in my area. I wish many more historic buildings had been preserved.

So, that’s about it for my Country Inn Medina Day. I could tell you all about the other fun things I did back at the Inn, but I’ll save those stories for another Country Inn Day blog post.

A cute Medina shop window

I hope you have your own Country Inn Days each and every week. Your play days may have a different name then mine and they may contain different activities, but what’s important is that you take time out to dream, play, and focus on your own favorite things. My spiritual directives tell me to live abundantly. Work is important, using our gifts, but creative fun is important too. Country Inn Days help me live abundantly.

I wish abundant days for you as well. Sharing with you has doubled my joy and I hope the sharing inspired a little extra joy in your day too.

So until we meet again Medina, and to you my friend- Take joy!

Tea on an Autumn Afternoon

“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.“————–Marcus Aurelius

I love to host an afternoon tea each and every month. Have you ever hosted such a party? I hope so. Every tea party I host is set in a different location in or around the grounds of my home. In October I always choose to serve in my outbuilding. Why? It’s because this small building at the edge of our property has a wood burning fireplace and entertaining here on an Autumn day makes me feel all cozy, as though I’m far away off in the mountains.

The outbuilding

This builiding is my little getaway place. It has two dutch doors, the five windows you see, baseboard heating and a beamed ceiling.

View of the fireplace

The outbuilding is always a great escape for me. I love to read in the wing chairs or in the rocker that belonged to my maternal grandparents, but now the rocker belongs to me.

So nice to sit and rock

Any time of year I love to escape to this building. Though there’s a house right next door the bushes keep my view out these windows quite private. It’s really a great escape when I yearn to get away, but haven’t the time to go off very far.

A room with a view thanks to the great windows

I love our outbuilding and because I know sharing doubles the joy I’m happy to host my October tea parties here. Of course the building is great for cocktails before a dinner party too. It’s just a fun place. We would’ve never thought to build such a structure, but some previous owners created it and I’m so glad they did.

For this October tea I decided to serve three items – a blueberry tea cake, pear scones ( the recipe given to me by my dear pen friend, Almita) and egg and watercress sandwiches. The party began with a little champagne. Campagne is always a nice touch.

Egg and watercress sandwich
Pear Scones
Blueberry tea cake

This tea party began as we sat before the fire toasting our champagne. We sat, we chatted, we watched the fire crackle and burn, but then we were ready for some tea so off to the table we went. The table in this outbuilding first belonged to my maternal grandparents as the rocker did. I was so happy to inherit it. I was happy also to have a good place for it in this building where it could be used and enjoyed by me and others. My grandparents and aunts and uncles who once used this table are now gone, but now the table has new life and new people all around it. It helps me share joy and love with others over tea. Sharing joy and love is what it’s all about, don’t you agree?

My grandparents table set for tea

My mother created the tablecloth. She was so good with a needle as were many of my female relatives. I have fond memories of us getting together chatting and stitching. I still love to knit, embroider, and do needlepoint. Do you enjoy needlework too? It’s a lovely art form.

I thought the outbuilding deserved its own set of china so I went off shopping at some antique stores and found this pretty pattern.

The outbuilding china

For tea at an antique table with antique china and antique table cloth I needed to use some antique napkins and I found some in my cupboard. I’m always collecting pretty things for the table. You too?

A napkin with a handmade touch

Every afternoon tea needs flowers and I was delighted to find some orange tea roses which matched the outbuilding china perfectly.

Gorgeous roses

The roses also matched the hair of my “mystery guest”. Look and see Maura’s lovely orange hair.

Me with my “mystery guest” and newest friend

You may be wondering why I call Maura my “mystery guest”? Well, you see, Maura read one of my past tea posts and she left a comment saying she would love to be invited to a tea. I wrote back to her asking where in the country she lived and I was delighted to learn she lived very near to me … so I invited her to this tea. I never actually met her until she came to my door but she proved to be a lovely lady and delightful guest. What is it they say about strangers being angels in disguise?

Of course I had other guests too – my good friends Lori and Joni were invited. Because I had taken a few hundred trips back and forth from the house to the outbuilding preparing for this tea I was very happy that the ladies helped me carry the last of the food to our little party in the ourbuilding.

Friends are the best

There is nothing like afternoon tea. To enjoy tea alone while reading a book or writing a letter is delightful, but to invite others to share in the tea ceremony is double or even triple fun. I certainly hope you are partaking in this simple but most delectable pleasure.

Go ahead. Invite some friends for afternoon tea. You’ll be glad you did.

What better way to suggest friendliness – and to create it – than with a cup of tea? ———————–J. Grayson Luttrell 1930

The Art of Creating Stationery

There’s the Art of Letter writing and there’s the Art of Handwriting, but there’s also the Art of Creating Stationery. There’s just so much art involved in writing letters. It’s wonderful – so creative. We can find papers for sale to use for the letters we write, but what fun to create our own stationery. We don’t have to be brilliant artists. We just have to let our creative juices flow. There’s inspiration everywhere.

We could create a simple sketch describing where we’re sitting as we write our letter or we can focus on a favorite thing, study it, and try to capture it on paper. I happen to love wildflowers so I’ve created a line of wildflower stationery. Here is one of my designs. I like to write a little information about the flower I’ve drawn around the edges of the paper.

I love writing letters on large sheets of paper because then I’m able to form the letters of my words larger too and this helps make my hand writing more legible and attractive.

Showy Lady’s Slipper

But variety is the spice of life so sometimes I create cards 4 by 6 in size and I add blank pages inside so thoughts can flow, not be hampered by a shortage of paper. Who likes a short letter? I tie the pages together creating a sort of booklet.

Sometimes I’ll draw my fountain pen with a hello and a flourish at the top of my letter paper, a few pretend drops of ink to add a fun touch. You see, the most simple ideas can make for interesting papers.

This is a page from the book I wrote, my book of letters, and the art for this particular letter was simply flowers created by pressing my finger into ink pads and pressing the ink onto the paper. You see, you don’t have to be able to draw to create fun designs for your stationery. Creativity comes in lots of forms.

Clipping pictures from children’s books and adding a bit of colored pencil or chalk can create a nice touch for a letter – a little whimsy.

Adding press-on flowers that are purchased can be fun especially if you add a little of your own flourishes around them. There are a lot of great do-dads to attach to letter paper – feathers, dried herbs, flowers, even weeds; You can create collages using articles you find lying around your house – ticket stubs, candy wrappers, colorful designs on packaging, leaves, anything and everything – just arrange them in an artistic manner onto your paper.

One of my standard designs is a simple flower I create on paper.

I create this basic flower design using two ingredients. The stem, leaves and grass are cut from a handmade paper I found in a paper store. The blooms comes from a pack of scrapbook paper containing many sheets of various colorful circles. It’s fun and quite easy to whip up this design and for pennies I can create lots and lots of stationery. The basic design is always the same, but the blooms are different.

A little creativity goes a long way in creating your very own unique stationery. The Art of Letter writing has many components – your handwriting, your stationery and then of course your thoughts – all this shared with others. It’s all Art and it’s all wonderful fun.

So go ahead and buy stationery if you can find it or use plain paper if you like, but don’t miss the chance to exercise your creativity. Dress up that plain paper if the spirit moves you to do so. You’ll amuse yourself and your pen friends will enjoy seeing what you come up with too.

Enjoy!

A Country Inn Nature Day

Ah, Nature

There is nothing quite as refreshing as spending time in nature so on this Country Inn Day I gather up a book or two and head out to the gardens of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio.

The entrance to Stan Hywet

I always feel that I’m leaving earth and going off to heaven as I enter the gates of Stan Hywet. With a little imagination they could be the gates of heaven. I enter and leave all cares behind me.

The entrance driveway

I enter slowly with great anticipation.

The Country House in all its glory

But the house is not what I’m interested in today. I do love love country houses but today is a Nature day. I’m off to the gardens. In each garden I shall sit and read for a bit taking in the beauty all around me. Do join me on this outing.

The rhododendrum alley

Years ago the rhodos were huge and glorious but then they became overgrown and it was necessary to replant a new supply. Sad that gardens, like people, get old and pass on. So much of human life can be seen in nature. I walk on and see before me a row of lovely evergreens.

Lush and green

And now on to the sunken English Garden. It’s my favorite.

path to the English Garden

I walk on and enter the stairs which take me down.

The stone work is so beautiful. The statuary enchanting. I come to the door of the garden. The anticipation ….

Entrance to the English Garden

Once inside I find a bench and enjoy my book with the beauty of plants, water, statuary and beautiful stonework all around me.

I could stay in The English Garden for hours but there are so many other gardens to enjoy. I must move on.

My next location for reading

I get comfortable on this stone bench, hard yes, but so beautiful. As I sit here and read I look up and see the lovliest stone balisters.

What workmanship

Eventually I walk forward and look down beyond the balisters at a garden below. There’s a path with lovely stepping stones between the flowering plants.

lovely

Moving on I approach a look out point.

“Beauty is the gift of God” so says Aristotle.

I stop here and reflect for a while. In this setting all cares melt away. Beauty does that for me and for most people, so it is important to place ourselves in beautiful surroundings as often as possible. But now join me in the Japanese Garden.

It is so peaceful here, down many stone steps. You’ve seen the bench where I sit wih my book. People occasioanlly walk by but they are quiet. In the words of Walt Whitman – “I loaf and invite my soul.”

So many paths. Which one to follow?
The remnants of an old tennis court

The residents of this house years ago enjoyed a swimming pool inside the house, but out here they played tennis. They are gone now and the court is almost gone, but not quite. Some poles still exist which must’ve supported the fencing to catch their balls.

Dressed for the game

You don’t have to rely on your imagination to picture the people of the past playing tennis here because there are pictures posted of these privledged folks enjoying themselves. The fashions of the past do look uncomfortable for playing tennis but they were elegant. At times I wish the styles would return “but the tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me” so says Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Another path

I keep walking and I see a stream and a romantic bridge in the distance.

Reminds me of Monet’s garden at Giverney, France but I’m right here in Akron, Ohio.

I climb the bridge, look at the fish and toads in the pond below and then walk up, up, and up, to the rolling lawns near the house.

So many stone steps

There is much open space.

I sit on a bench with a view of the lawn and the house.

After some resting and some reading I make my way to the Birch tree allee.

So many Birch trees and with such attractive stepping stones in the walkway.

The path ends at a look out point

What interesting twin construction
The area below

I look down and there’s another area to investigate but first I come upon a large brick drive. It leads to the house. Supplies were delivered to the house using this entranceway.

so many bricks

I keep walking to the cutting gardens

Lin Yutang said, ” Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature – daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it – rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks!” This is exactly what I’m doing on this Country Inn Nature Day. I’m coming in very close contact with nature.

I see a grape arbor in the distance.

charming

I must investigate.

The grapes are luscious to look at and luscious to nibble. Can we ever have too much of a good thing? The designer of these gardens didn’t know when to stop. The gardens keep going and going and going. Now for a walk down some stairs – yes, more stone steps.

down, down, I went


Now to stroll this area. There are more ponds and much more open space to explore, but as you can see these gardens are so much more than plants. There is a great deal of hardscape.

I go way to the back of the grounds to take it all in and this is what I see.

“O world, I cannot hold thee close enough! Edna St. Vincent Millay

I climb back up the many stairs…

Do you notice the flowers set in the stone? Charming.

And I come to the children’s garden. It is a very fun place with fountains that make music and create bubbles. There’s a castle for children to investigate, giant bowling pins for a little game, and a whimsical truck filled with flowers growing in it.

And that’s not all. Next I come to the Greenhouse

and a beauty of a Greenhouse it is too

There’s even a lovely patio beside it – another nice place to sit with my book. And did I mention the Butterfly house?

Beautiful

Inside this building butterflies flit all around you. It’s a very happy place.

Ah nature

There was so much to take in at the gardens here. I shared only a small part of what I enjoyed. I have read that when we observe beauty it becomes us. We carry it with us and express it in the things we do with our lives.

“Think… of the world you carry within you. Rainer Maria Rilke

I reluctantly leave these gardens but the ride home through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is quite delightful. I pass miles of the most charming yellow flowers growing wild along the road. There were millions of them. I got home and called the park, speaking to a ranger, inquiring what exactly these yellow flowers were and I was told they were called Wing stems.

Earth is crammed with heaven

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful day. I hope you’ve been having wonderful days too. As Henry Miller said, “It’s good to be happy; it’s a little better to know that you’re happy; but to understand that you’re happy and to know why and how… and still be happy, be happy in the being and the knowing, well that is beyond happiness, that is bliss.”


A Country Inn Day is bliss







A Country Inn Nature Day is bliss.

Favorite Recipes from the Inn Cook at the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House

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Hello there.

It’s Carol Ann, Inn Cook of County Inn Days.  Today I’m working away in my Butler’s Pantry preparing all sorts of culinary delights and because sharing doubles my joy I will share a few of the recipes I’m preparing in case you get inspired to do a little cooking  and baking yourself.

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I love cookbooks and my cookbook closet is proof of that fact.  Over the years I’ve collected quite a few wonderful cookbooks. With the help of these books menus are never ho hum affairs at The Jeremiah Brown House. There’s always something new being “cooked up” and there’s always cooking inspiration from the authors of these books. Some cookbook authors run restaurants or inns while others compile the recipes of famous personalities like Claude Monet, Beatrix Potter, Tasha Tudor or Princess Diana.  I find menu planning with the help of these books as much fun or sometimes more fun then  the actual cooking and baking.   But of course cooking and baking is great fun too  – the scents floating from the kitchen are Yummy and we all do have to eat, don’t we?

So let’s get started.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe comes from cookbook author, Susan Branch.  It appears in her Autumn Cookbook.  It’s fun to have cookbooks which feature special recipes for the Season.  This recipe is great with Thanksgiving Turkey or Christmas Ham.  In fact it’s on the menu for Christmas dinner here at the Jeremiah Brown House, dinner for 20.  If you’re on a diet you might want to skip it, but then again live a little .  It’s the holidays!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:  4 c. sweet potatoes cooked and mashed,  8 oz. cream cheese softened, 1/2 c. butter softened, 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 c, brown sugar, 2 and 1/2 Tbsp. dry sherry, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 c. chopped walnuts, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg.

Process:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With electric mixer (not food processer) whip all ingredients except walnuts and nutmeg until light.  Stir in walnuts and put into a buttered casserole. Spread evenly and put nutmeg over top. Bake 45 minutes till golden brown.

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Once I try a new recipe and like it the recipe is copied and placed in a special notebook so that these tried and true favorites are easy to find when planning the next dinner party.  There are notebooks for Tea treats, for Main Course foods, for Desserts and all sorts of other categories. My father, Joe, always used to say, “You’ve got to have a system.”  So I enjoy creating a system for everything I do.  You might call these systems rituals, but  whatever you call them they help me get things done in an orderly fun manner.

But let’s make something else.

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Snake Rolls

You probably wonder why these yeast rolls are called snake rolls.  Well, though I didn’t bother with the details this time one can very easily turn these simple yeast rolls into little snakes by snipping a mouth and inserting a peppercorn for an eye.

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See?

The recipe comes from a book I have had for years.  The book is so used the cover fell off ages ago. What fun things Ann Wiseman came up with in her book – breads shaped like pocket fish that puff out when baked at 500 degrees, pink angel breads made from tomato dough, cinnamon lambs with bodies made of cinnamon buns.  So many fun things to dress up a dinner table.

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But the snake rolls are my favorite because I can whip up the dough and it keeps in a bag in the fridge for days till ready for baking –  2, 3, 4 or however many rolls I need.

Ingredients: 1 pack yeast, 2 cups warm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 7 cups of flour or more.

Process: Mix and stir ingredients.  Knead until smooth.  Oil dough ball and store in fridge, covered, punch down from time to time.  An hour before any meal cut off a lump of dough.  Divide into balls.  Roll balls into snakes.  Tie snakes into knots.  Snip mouth open an add an eye.  Let snakes rise 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

I love baking bread.

But I also love baking pies.

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And it’s time for Pumpkin Pie.

Here’s my favorite recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups cooked pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 3 eggs slightly beaten, 1 cup light cream, 1/2 tsp. salt and a 9 inch pie shell.

Process:  Combine pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt.  Blend in eggs and cream.  Pour into pie shell. Bake 40 to 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven until knife is inserted off center and comes out clean.

Now for the Pie Shell Recipe.  The recipe comes from my friend Nancy who now lives in Washaugal, Washington.

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Mix 1 and 1/2 cup flour wih 1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. of salt in a pie pan.  Then mix 1/2 cup oil with 2 Tbsp. of milk and pour it into flour mixture.

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Using a fork mix everything together and press into place.

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And there you have a pie shell for pumpkin or pudding or any one-crust pie of your choice.  The crust is great for quiche too.

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But my other favorite pie is Apple.  Ah, Long live Apple Pie and good friends who share it, friends like you and I.  ( I set those lyrics to music once upon a time so I’m singing as I’m baking.)

Between my Mom and Paul Burrell, former butler to Princes Diana,   I  can come up with a lovely apple pie any time my spirit and tummy demand it.

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My Mom, Lottie, and her double crust pie pastry recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt,3/4 cup crisco shortening, 5 Tbsp. ice water

Process: Mix all ingredients except water in a food processor, then add the water a little at a time till the dough holds together like a ball.  Roll out onto a floured board.  Place crust into pie pan.

The apple pie filling recipe comes from Paul Burrell in his book, “Royal Manner”.  Paul says that this Deep Filled Apple Pie recipe is a particular favorite of the Royal Family.  Well then that’s one thing  my family have in common with the Royal Family.  They all love this pie recipe too.

Ingredients:  Pie crust recipe for double crust pie, 2 pounds of apples, finely grated rind and juice of one large lemon, 4 oz. of light brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. plain flour, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, 2 oz. of sultanas, 1 oz. butter, 1 small egg white beaten, 1 Tbsp. caster sugar.

Process:  Roll out the pastry and place in 9 inch pie tin.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile peel, core and slice apples thinly.  Place them in a bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Mix the flour, brown sugar cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle a little of the sugar at the bottom of the pastry and mix the rest in with the apples and sultanas.  Place the apples in the pie pan and dot with butter.  Roll out the remaining crust and place on top as you wish. Brush with egg white.  Trim the pie edges and if the top is a solid piece of pastry cut a small hole in the middle.  Sprinkle the caster sugar on top.   Bake 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees.

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 So there you have it!  These recipes should keep you busy for a while… till the next time I share more Inn favorites.  When you make these goodies think of me or better yet, write to tell me how they turned out and how you liked them.  Sharing doubles the joy you know so share the food and share your thoughts.  I will be back with more recipes  from my Country Inn Days.  Till then Bon Appetite and enjoy!

It’s not just a Walk in the Park

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Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation.  How and when do you cultivate joy?  I cultivate much of my joy when walking through nature. It’s here with great beauty all around  me that I’m able to think positively and creatively.

Nothing comes from nothing you know.  We have to construct our own unique vision of a delightful life before we can make that life happen.  This takes imagination, effort, and a certain amount of time uncluttered by work-a-day concerns.  A stroll in nature provides the   perfect opportunity for creative thought.

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As we turn our eyes to behold the sights and sounds of nature, all that our Creator designed for us, we look away from sordid surroundings, from lack of beauty, from the imperfections in ourselves and those around us and with a little  faith-vision we begin to see new possibilities for our lives.

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Albert Einstein said, “The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty and truth.”  What are your ideals?  What do you imagine for your life?  We only have so much time on earth to live these ideals so if we’re not thinking about them constantly, if we’re letting the busyness of daily life distract us, we will forget to have and do the very things that matter to us most.

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Though it’s important to let our  minds relax and ramble freely while walking in nature  I find it helpful to have one particular subject I return to over and over in between the ramblings. That subject might be trying to find more time for reading in the course of a day or dreaming up a new ritual for afternoon tea or finding a better system for cleaning the closets. It could be anything, but if I limit my conscious thought to that one particular subject there’s a good chance I’ll have some concrete new ideas in place by the end of my walk.

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The rest and recreation we need is the kind which actually recreates.

We can use our leisure to do all sorts of things, but to cultivate joy we must be sure those things have meaning to us. Cultivating joy requires creation, creation requires reflection and reflection requires solitude. Lord Byron, one of my “dead friends” said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair” and that’s because without reflection we can’t cultivate joy.

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Besides being a chance to look into ourselves cultivating joy, studies show that a walk in  nature helps us feel physically healthier, better about ourselves in general and just plain happier.  You’d think a walk would make us feel more tired, but the reality is opposite. Exercise actually increases energy.

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Sometimes on my walk I like to pause for a while in a nice spot reading a book, a book inspiring new ideas, a book like Voluntary  Simplicity, by Duane Elgin.  Duane spent much of his life in the East and became very interested in harmonious and purposeful living.  In his book he quotes Richard Gregg who was a student of Gandhi’s teaching and who wrote in 1936…

“Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition.  It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life.  It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions.  It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.  Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another… the degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.”

Though we have all sorts of our own thoughts to explore and develop it’s important to include new ideas into the mix. Reading good books anywhere, any time is an  enriching experience so why not read in nature surrounded  by so much beauty?

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You have to find places where you recognize yourself.

It seems to me we’re  happiest when we’re surrounded by people and places that are in sync with us.  Where would those places be for you?  I’m most comfortable in coffee shops writing letters, in art museums, in restaurants with white table cloths and in nature.  To create the life you’ve always dreamed of you must know where you should and shouldn’t be spending  most of your time.  A daily walk in nature is a ritual I created for myself, one that serves me well.  Maybe it would serve you well too.

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“Romanticism is beauty without bounds — the beautiful infinite.”  —Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)

I’m a Romantic and all Romantics love and need nature.  I’m also a music lover and some say music is the most romantic of all the arts.  For me music and nature go hand in hand so I love bringing the music of Romantic composers along with me on my nature walks.  Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or Debussy’s “Prelude to the  Afternoon of a Faun” make for lovely accompaniments to my visual pleasure.  Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak… there  are so many composers who were as influenced and inspired by nature as I am, taking  their music along with me doubles the joy..  What would a movie be without a soundtrack?  A walk benefits from a soundtrack too.

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If you’re a Romantic like me you owe it to yourself to find ways to live more romantically every day.  It’s easier than you think.  Regardless of your time or budget you can walk along and dream up all sorts of rituals for yourself, rituals like celebrating your own special days (I have my weekly Country Inn Days), indulging in breakfast in bed, picnics and other delights, or simply prioritizing time for romance.  Barbara Taylor Bradford wrote a book called “Living Romantically Every Day” and it’s filled with ideas you can make your own as you walk along in nature. That walk is a romantic experience in itself.  You don’t need to be in places like Paris, Rome, Boston or San Francisco in order to live and be inspired romantically. Nature is everywhere and its beauty has power.

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I do enjoy Romantic cities with their vivid enduring images; white towns surrounding an elm-shaped green; mellowed brick and graying stone; narrow cobbled streets along a tangy waterfront, ancient architecture, but I can be equally inspired by the simple beauty of nature in my very own town and you probably have lots of beautiful nature in and around your town too.  Take advantage of it.

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No matter how good you feel before a walk in nature you’ll feel even better after one.  And if you’re feeling low there’s nothing like the inspiration and comfort you’ll find in God’s great out-of-doors.  It’s impossible for any alert person to stroll along a lake or saunter through the  woods without something magical happening to their spirit.

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Why do you suppose there is so much variety in the beauty of nature?  Why aren’t all the trees the same?  Behind all philosophy and religion there is one thing for certain; the world and everything in it exists for some purpose.  We’re here for some purpose too and to feel our happiest we must love our life and believe it has significance, but we can’t love what we don’t really know.   Socrates said, “Know  thyself” and  Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”

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The hard work we do doesn’t get us down, its the  work and activity we do which doesn’t connect to our true purpose, to our spirit. Doing the wrong things drain us.   By taking time out each and every day to know ourselves better we can keep our lives on track and when we take a walk in nature noticing  every beautiful thing God created with its intelligence and purpose, well, I think that beauty inspires us to become the artists of our own lives, cultivating joy, and working to create the life we imagine for ourselves.

So it’s not JUST a walk in the park.  That walk is a GREAT activity.  It can do a lot  for our physical, intellectual and spiritual lives.  It can even be a social activity if we walk with a friend, but shhhhhhhhhhhhh. . .

SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

Hang on to your old books

I love books.  I have always loved books, and over the years I have collected quite a few – I mean hundreds and hundreds.  I have book cases in each room.  There’s the living room collection,

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the guest room shelves,

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there’s a wall of books in my writing room,

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and book case in a spare bedroom,

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some rooms have books running along the ceiling,

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some rooms have collections on tables,

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the music room has a shelf system to hold old books,

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and certain pieces of furniture display favorites,

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of course there’s the library where we added two walls of bookcases floor to ceiling,

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There are books on the porch,

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and there are more –   many, many more .

Did I mention I love books?

Well, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books today, so I strolled around the house scanning my collection, and I came upon this one by David Kibbes.

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Metamorphosis, written in the 80’s,  contained a style system whereby the reader was told what type of clothing would suit her based on body type.  Kibbes  grouped women into the following categories:  dramatic, natural, romantic, classic and gamine,  and though his particular fashion suggestions are now out of date, his system had a lot of originality and depth to it.

Being a spiritual person myself, what I found most fascinating about Kibbes’ system was how he not only considered the shape and size of a woman’s body, but also her spirit.  For example, I tested as  a classic type, but because I have many romantic notions in my personality David typed me as a  “Soft” Classic and made many suggestions on how to romanticize my classic look.  I found this to be very helpful and clever on his part.  Dramatics could be soft or theatrical. Naturals could be soft or flamboyant and so on.   We must make the final decisions about our appearance, but Kibbes gets us thinking in a fun way.

The blog, Brainy Beauty Talk, is creating posts these days updating some of Kibbes fashion  ideas and adding  new original  thoughts in  regard to his system.  You might enjoy checking it out.  There’s also a sample mini quiz  on line (type in: David Kibbes Metamorphosis).  It’s  the kind of quiz used in the book  which determines your yin/yang balance and image identity.       You may find the test and Kibbes whole concept fun.  I did, but,  if you get all fired up and  want to find a copy of the book for yourself

 GOOD LUCK!

And this is what I’m getting at.

Hold on to your old books.  I don’t remember what I paid for Metamorphosis  some 30 years ago, but I doubt it was more than $20.  Well, Amazon now is selling a  hardcover used copy for $77.59 and if you want a new copy, you’ll have to pay $176.70 for it.

WOWWY  ZOWWY!

So now you know why I titled this post as I did.

I think I’ll leave you now and see what some of my other books are selling for these days…

Maybe I’ll trade a few dozen in and take a trip to Bermuda.